Books on Books!

Time for book review #3! I wanted to share a book that I believe will make an impact, but since I’m not finished with it, it somehow felt like cheating. You know, like writing a book report when you haven’t read the book? (I never did that by the way because I really like reading). While I searched for another one, I noticed a minor theme—several of my books are about bookstores. So instead of one book this month, I’m sharing a very mini bookstore of books about bookstores. There’s one outlier, but it’s a library so I’m including it.

Some of these are books my Rowdy Readers reading group has read over the years, some have been recommended by others, and a couple I picked up on my own because of the setting.

These first three are similar in that the book shop is a community meeting place—of sorts. Or at least that’s the intention.

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is a memoir by Wendy Welch and is the story of opening and running a used book shop, Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books, in rural Virginia. Welch lets the reader in on the fun and frazzled beginnings of the shop when they had little money and fewer books and a grand opening date set, and introduces us to the regulars who make the bookshop a second home; also those in the community who not only didn’t make regular visits but made it known Welch, her husband, and the bookshop weren’t welcome. But they find a way to stay, and stay they did for fifteen years before moving back to Scotland. Can you imagine yourself in a used book store, the proprietors speaking in a lovely Scots accent, a cat or two curled in nooks and corners (Wendy fostered shelter animals), and the owner greets you from her chair where she’s crocheting. There’s something very inviting about it all, and I’m sorry the store is not longer in business. Welch’s book lets you come in and linger, and browse a bit anyway.

The second one, The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald, is also about setting up a bookstore in a rural area, this time in a coastal town outside of London, in 1959. This one is fiction. Widow Florence Green opens a little shop hoping to bring a bit of culture to Hardborough, but going up against a banker who doesn’t like her business plan, causing friction with other shop keepers, and having a warehouse with a leaky roof and a shop with a ghost, things aren’t easy. As the cover says, The kindhearted widow finds out too late that not all villages without a bookstore want one.

The final one in this set is also fiction, The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs. Natalie Harper inherits a bookshop in San Francisco, along with the role of caretaker for her grandfather who owns the historic building where the bookshop is located. From the jacket: Grandpa Andrew has begun to struggle with memory loss, and Natalie plans to sell the financially strapped bookshop to pay for his care. There’s only one problem—her grandfather refuses to sell. Wiggs tells a good story of hidden treasures, of community, family and romantic love, and the surprises of self-discovery.

These next two are a bit different.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan is quirky and wonderful in all the right ways. From the jacket: The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious that either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything – instead, they ‘check out’ large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. There is intrigue, history, fun as Clay figures a way to discover what’s truly going on, and what’s truly going on will make you wish this dusty old bookstore really existed. Or maybe it does.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill doesn’t take place in a bookstore, or in a library for that matter, but begins with a murder in a library. I’m including it for two reasons. A library is similar to a bookstore in that one is surrounded by shelves and shelves of books, like book stores they’ve become gathering places for events, and they’re also some of my favorite places. The second reason is because while it’s not about a bookstore, the story is about writing a book, namely the murder that takes place in the library. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s a book within a book which makes it a fun and interesting read. There are three main voices – the author who is writing the story, the main character of the novel, and a fan of the author’s who’s giving editorial suggestions. There are twists and turns in both stories that will keep you guessing and make you go hmmm ….

These last two are books on my ‘To Be Read’ pile and now that I’ve rediscovered them, I’m starting one this evening. Both are mysteries.

In The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom, Israel Armstrong is lured to Ireland to drive a mobile library around an Irish town, but somehow the 15,000 books have gone missing. Israel is determined to find out why, how and by whom.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson promises fun, mystery and family drama as Miranda Brooks inherits a bookshop from her Uncle Billy, who has left her a scavenger hunt throughout the store that will reveal family secrets. Hmm …

As readers, don’t we all love bookstores? I’m partial to the intimacy and somewhat cluttered-cozy feel of indies and used bookstores with their shopkeepers who love being surrounded by books as much as I do. How about you? Are you a big store shopper or a little bookshop shopper?

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2 Responses to Books on Books!

  1. I love bookstores! All kinds, but I prefer the smaller off-the-beaten-path bookstores. I have not read any of these books, but I have considered reading The Woman in the Library.

    And I love libraries too–for the simple reason–they have books and books and more books to read–for free!

  2. I wanted to add a title to your list of books set in bookstores. Sarah Sundin is a Christian historical fiction writer–about WWII. Until Leaves Fall in Paris, a Christy Award winner, is set partly in a bookstore in Paris, owned by a ballet dancer. Here’s a link to read more about it:

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